Experts: Diet, not exercise, most important to health

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

Doing 30 minutes of cardio work or spending an hour on the treadmill will do you absolutely no good if you continually consume pizza, soda, and Twinkies, a trio of international fitness gurus write in a scathing editorial published last week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Don’t be like Snorlax here.

While many health and wellness experts tout the importance of both a healthy diet and adequate activity in preventing obesity and keeping in good physical condition, the three researchers claim that there is overwhelming evidence suggesting that diet is more important than exercise.

Furthermore, as Forbes summarizes, even if people regularly work out and have an acceptable body weight, they could still be unhealthy if that individual consumes too many carbohydrates. The authors of the editorial are calling for a basic reboot of our concept of health.

It looks like you can’t just “work off” that fat piece of chocolate cake you had for breakfast…and lunch.

Exercise is not a cure for obesity

Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at Frimley Park Hospital in the UK and a consultant clinical associate to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, along with colleagues from the University of California, Davis and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, wrote in response to a recent study citing the “miracle cure” abilities of a specific exercise regimen.

That study claimed that working out for 30 minutes five times a week was more effective than many drugs administered for chronic disease prevention, and that this type of regular physical activity reduced the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other similar conditions. Dr. Malhotra’s team writes unequivocally that exercise “does not promote weight loss.” Hold up, what?!

“Many still wrongly believe that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise,” they noted, adding that recently published research “concluded that dietary carbohydrate restriction is the single most effective intervention for reducing all the features of the metabolic syndrome and should be the first approach in diabetes management, with benefits occurring even without weight loss.”

Blame the food industry

They blame this “false perception” on the food industry, which they accuse of using tactics not unlike those once utilized by the tobacco industry as they managed to keep the government from regulating their products for decades. In particular, they are calling for an end to both celebrity endorsements of sugary beverages and the relationship between sports and junk food.

“The ‘health halo’ legitimization of nutritionally deficient products is misleading and unscientific,” the authors wrote “This manipulative marketing sabotages effective government interventions such as the introduction of sugary drink taxes or the banning of junk food advertising. Such marketing increases commercial profit at the cost of population health.”

They added that, for every additional 150 calories in sugar (roughly equal to a can of soda) that a person consumes each day, his or her risk of contracting diabetes increased 11-fold, regardless of physical activity levels. The most effective things that an individual can do their weight is to cut calories, and especially carbohydrates, Dr. Malhotra and his co-authors said.

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